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I made a whole house compost worm septic system

 
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The whole house toilets are connected to a septic tank that has worms in it. I've used it for over a year now and I can safely say it's a success.

If anyone wants to know more about it or wants to share their own experiences I would love to chat..

Edit. Link to some pictures of construction
https://imgur.com/a/X8bKehy

 
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Tell us more please?
What did you start with?
 
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VERY cool. How do you empty it out?
 
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Yen, I have read about the worm septic systems here on the forum.  

I think it is a great idea.

Did you buy your system from a company or DIY?

This thread may be of interest to you or others about the company in Australia that sells a system:

https://permies.com/t/152398/Worm-farm-septic

It may be that the governing bodies here in the US do not understand the system well enough to approve it.
 
Yen Yus
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Hey everyone

I heard about worm toilet systems but couldn't really find any resources on it so I kind of asked on Reddit permaculture sub and they were a bit hostile. So I decided to go it alone .

First of all we tried the dry toilet for a year. It didn't quite fit in with our wants. I was still building our home at that point so I separated the grey water from the blackwater (they usually combine the both). The grey water system also works great, we got 50 kilos of bananas last year.

I connected all the blackwater to a hole I dug which is about 2x3 meters. And I dug around 1.8 meters deep. Put in around 40 cm of gravel and layered the worms on top. Poured concrete on top 15 cm thick, elevated from the surroundings, with two 60x60 cm hatches for observation and cleanup when need be.

It's about 5 cm thick compost on top of the gravel right now and we are a family of 4. So I'd say it will be a long time before it needs cleaning out since the worms do such a good job of converting the waste.

We use the toilets normally. The toilets use around 4 liters of water with each flush I believe. I try to use less if I can but the kids are not so carefull with it. We are in Cyprus so the climate is hot and dry.

I got a bit worried towards the end of the winter since it did seem a bit wet in there and the worms were climbing up the sides. The soil underneath is hard clay and it keeps the water. This is why I poured 40 cm gravel.

Now in autumn (we have dry summers) the worms seem to have established themselves well. They have a healthy population and they work faster than ever. The system seems to have gotten better over time. Its been about a year now. Another plus side is that the worms travel up the pipes and clear out any blockage in the system. And the smell is much better than conventional septic systems, probably could have gotten away without any venting pipes but we still have them.

I will post some pictures when I get a chance of the building process and the current situation. Please feel free to ask me anything and I will do my best to answer.
 
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Yen Yus wrote:Hey everyone

I heard about worm toilet systems but couldn't really find any resources on it so I kind of asked on Reddit permaculture sub and they were a bit hostile. So I decided to go it alone .

First of all we tried the dry toilet for a year. It didn't quite fit in with our wants. I was still building our home at that point so I separated the grey water from the blackwater (they usually combine the both). The grey water system also works great, we got 50 kilos of bananas last year.

I connected all the blackwater to a hole I dug which is about 2x3 meters. And I dug around 1.8 meters deep. Put in around 40 cm of gravel and layered the worms on top. Poured concrete on top 15 cm thick, elevated from the surroundings, with two 60x60 cm hatches for observation and cleanup when need be.

It's about 5 cm thick compost on top of the gravel right now and we are a family of 4. So I'd say it will be a long time before it needs cleaning out since the worms do such a good job of converting the waste.

We use the toilets normally. The toilets use around 4 liters of water with each flush I believe. I try to use less if I can but the kids are not so carefull with it. We are in Cyprus so the climate is hot and dry.

I got a bit worried towards the end of the winter since it did seem a bit wet in there and the worms were climbing up the sides. The soil underneath is hard clay and it keeps the water. This is why I poured 40 cm gravel.

Now in autumn (we have dry summers) the worms seem to have established themselves well. They have a healthy population and they work faster than ever. The system seems to have gotten better over time. Its been about a year now. Another plus side is that the worms travel up the pipes and clear out any blockage in the system. And the smell is much better than conventional septic systems, probably could have gotten away without any venting pipes but we still have them.

I will post some pictures when I get a chance of the building process and the current situation. Please feel free to ask me anything and I will do my best to answer.



This is fascinating!! So - just to confirm, you have: a layer of gravel, a layer of worms, initially just a space on top, and then a concrete top with hatches? How did you space the top of it up? In the sense that - what did you pour your concrete on?

Do you provide any bedding to start? And how long has it been since you installed the system?
 
Anne Miller
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Bethany Dutch wrote:This is fascinating!! So - just to confirm, you have: a layer of gravel, a layer of worms, initially just a space on top, and then a concrete top with hatches? How did you space the top of it up? In the sense that - what did you pour your concrete on?

Do you provide any bedding to start? And how long has it been since you installed the system?



I am thinking these are great questions and I want to ask:

Did you use some kind of container for your system?
 
Yen Yus
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I've added some pictures https://imgur.com/a/X8bKehy of the construction to give you an idea. You are right about the
order of layers. I didn't provide much bedding, just added them from the existing worm compost bin. The system has been in operation for over a year now. I will post updated pictures soon. Also I will draw a diagram of the layers with measurements.

Bethany Dutch wrote:

Yen Yus wrote:Hey everyone

I heard about worm toilet systems but couldn't really find any resources on it so I kind of asked on Reddit permaculture sub and they were a bit hostile. So I decided to go it alone .

First of all we tried the dry toilet for a year. It didn't quite fit in with our wants. I was still building our home at that point so I separated the grey water from the blackwater (they usually combine the both). The grey water system also works great, we got 50 kilos of bananas last year.

I connected all the blackwater to a hole I dug which is about 2x3 meters. And I dug around 1.8 meters deep. Put in around 40 cm of gravel and layered the worms on top. Poured concrete on top 15 cm thick, elevated from the surroundings, with two 60x60 cm hatches for observation and cleanup when need be.

It's about 5 cm thick compost on top of the gravel right now and we are a family of 4. So I'd say it will be a long time before it needs cleaning out since the worms do such a good job of converting the waste.

We use the toilets normally. The toilets use around 4 liters of water with each flush I believe. I try to use less if I can but the kids are not so carefull with it. We are in Cyprus so the climate is hot and dry.

I got a bit worried towards the end of the winter since it did seem a bit wet in there and the worms were climbing up the sides. The soil underneath is hard clay and it keeps the water. This is why I poured 40 cm gravel.

Now in autumn (we have dry summers) the worms seem to have established themselves well. They have a healthy population and they work faster than ever. The system seems to have gotten better over time. Its been about a year now. Another plus side is that the worms travel up the pipes and clear out any blockage in the system. And the smell is much better than conventional septic systems, probably could have gotten away without any venting pipes but we still have them.

I will post some pictures when I get a chance of the building process and the current situation. Please feel free to ask me anything and I will do my best to answer.



This is fascinating!! So - just to confirm, you have: a layer of gravel, a layer of worms, initially just a space on top, and then a concrete top with hatches? How did you space the top of it up? In the sense that - what did you pour your concrete on?

Do you provide any bedding to start? And how long has it been since you installed the system?

 
Yen Yus
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No. I just dug up the ground , put drainage gravel in then built a stone wall around the inside. You can see better on the pictures https://imgur.com/a/X8bKehy

I used a laser level to level the hatches with the concrete, thought it would look neater like that. In hindsight maybe I should have elevated them a little above poured concrete due to rain water entering through them. Although I'm not entirely sure if that is a problem at all. And the metalwork maybe slightly overkill but I had the rebar lying around so.

Anne Miller wrote:

Bethany Dutch wrote:This is fascinating!! So - just to confirm, you have: a layer of gravel, a layer of worms, initially just a space on top, and then a concrete top with hatches? How did you space the top of it up? In the sense that - what did you pour your concrete on?

Do you provide any bedding to start? And how long has it been since you installed the system?



I am thinking these are great questions and I want to ask:

Did you use some kind of container for your system?

 
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Yen, interesting experiment!  Thanks for sharing your journey.  The website vermifilter.com shows several DIY flush compost toilet designs that take advantage of some of the latest technical papers in the field of "vermifiltration".  The DIY design at vermicompostingtoilets.net was based on the work of Anna Edey, whose design is documented in her Green Light at the End of the Tunnel book.  Pour flush Tiger Worm Toilet designs are documented on the OxFam WASH website.
 
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Wow, this is so interesting.  I did vermicomposting in my kitchen (kitchen food scraps), but the system was so wet so much of the time, and I had trouble getting the balance right.  This is so interesting.  You are flushing a traditional toilet, and that's a substantial amount of water going, but in the photos, I see no standing water, correct?
 
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@Yen Yus, where are you located? I'm originally from New Zealand and used to design houses there. I specced  worm septics a few times and they were the bomb! Over here (in the USA) no one has a clue about them, so I figure getting one through your county/city for planning permission would be a nightmare!!
 
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I am interested in how worms interact normally with conventional septic systems? Do they clean out the septic bed?
 
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What type of worms are these?
 
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drop a bucket of greens ,and maybe old pumpkins and others vegetables bro those red wigglers need a more diversified diet! shredded cardboad and newspapers...
 
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There is this great resource with build design and maintenance steps here - http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net/

I'm building it at the moment with IBC tank, I'll take a few pics and we share my exp later.

Cheers,
Julien
 
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Anne Miller wrote:Yen, I have read about the worm septic systems here on the forum.  

I think it is a great idea.

Did you buy your system from a company or DIY?

This thread may be of interest to you or others about the company in Australia that sells a system:

https://permies.com/t/152398/Worm-farm-septic

It may be that the governing bodies here in the US do not understand the system well enough to approve it.


These guys are very cleaver.  They do the work with local government (council) to get their system passed for use.  There is now a body of evidence in their portfolio so when they approach a new council, they can roll out the portfolio which speeds up the process.
I think that they do overseas projects.  We have a few people locally who have this system but it is about AU$12,000 last time I checked.  It is on par with other systems that are way less environmentally  friendly.
 
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This is fascinating!  I had no idea.

I have been searching the web after I followed all the links here.  

Being in rural USA, I have a regulation septic system, presumably anaerobic, producing toxic compounds and propagating pathogens …

I wondered about retrofitting my existing system.  At first glance it appears that would be complicated…. Mostly because the existing conventional system is buried deep and the drainpipe is at the top of the tank rather than the bottom, maintaining the anaerobic pool, while the worms need the liquids drawn away to prevent drowning.

Is this off topic? Should there be, or is there already a thread about retrofit, or a thread about establishing a new vermiculture system?
 
Yen Yus
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Hey Thekla

İf you see the pictures I posted you can see that the pipe bringing the poop in are also from the top. You would have to get rid of the bottom of your tank and put in gravel etc. İt may not be worth it.

Probably better to just dig a new hole and do it accordingly. You have to make sure the worms won't be drowning so you'd need to test your hole after you dig it.

You are right about septic tanks being a cess pit. The smell when you open one can kill you. With this system it just smells like compost.
 
Yen Yus
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Hey Ian

I'm from Cyprus. I'm in a village so no one really bothered me about how I handle my poop thankfully 😄

Ian Shere wrote:@Yen Yus, where are you located? I'm originally from New Zealand and used to design houses there. I specced  worm septics a few times and they were the bomb! Over here (in the USA) no one has a clue about them, so I figure getting one through your county/city for planning permission would be a nightmare!!

 
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These are a mix of tiger worms and European Night Crawlers

Briana Great wrote:What type of worms are these?

 
Yen Yus
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Even though unnecessary (our poop is quite diverse 😄) I do drop some greens and vegetables in, every now and then.

Tony PotenZa wrote:drop a bucket of greens ,and maybe old pumpkins and others vegetables bro those red wigglers need a more diversified diet! shredded cardboad and newspapers...

 
Yen Yus
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This is great, thanks for this.

Burton Sparks wrote:Yen, interesting experiment!  Thanks for sharing your journey.  The website vermifilter.com shows several DIY flush compost toilet designs that take advantage of some of the latest technical papers in the field of "vermifiltration".  The DIY design at vermicompostingtoilets.net was based on the work of Anna Edey, whose design is documented in her Green Light at the End of the Tunnel book.  Pour flush Tiger Worm Toilet designs are documented on the OxFam WASH website.

 
Yen Yus
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How lovely..

Julien Vailles wrote:There is this great resource with build design and maintenance steps here - http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net/

I'm building it at the moment with IBC tank, I'll take a few pics and we share my exp later.

Cheers,
Julien

 
Yen Yus
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Hi Felicia
There's about 40 cm of drainage gravel on the earth below that keeps them relatively dry. You don't want it too dry either. You'd have to test the drainage of your soil after you dig and adjust accordingly. 40 cm of drainage works for the soil here and also the climate. Just incase I did dig a little deeper than necessary to add on drainage gravel if need be. İt's been over a year now and the worms are happy as pigs in poop ☺️ Drainage is key

Felicia Rain wrote:Wow, this is so interesting.  I did vermicomposting in my kitchen (kitchen food scraps), but the system was so wet so much of the time, and I had trouble getting the balance right.  This is so interesting.  You are flushing a traditional toilet, and that's a substantial amount of water going, but in the photos, I see no standing water, correct?

 
Yen Yus
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Hi Frank

Since the septic system is full of water the worms would drown. They like a moist medium. I've seen soldier fly larvae swim underwater so that may be an interesting experiment.

Frank Voi wrote:I am interested in how worms interact normally with conventional septic systems? Do they clean out the septic bed?

 
Felicia Rein
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Yen Yus wrote:Hi Frank

Since the septic system is full of water the worms would drown. They like a moist medium. I've seen soldier fly larvae swim underwater so that may be an interesting experiment.

Frank Voi wrote:I am interested in how worms interact normally with conventional septic systems? Do they clean out the septic bed?



I thought septic systems also “drain out” into the soil…?

How does one determine if it is safe to drain this black water into the soil beneath the 40cm of gravel?

How deep down does this storage container need to be placed in the soil in a climate that has cold winter?  
 
Felicia Rein
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Yen Yus wrote:How lovely..

Julien Vailles wrote:There is this great resource with build design and maintenance steps here - http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net/

I'm building it at the moment with IBC tank, I'll take a few pics and we share my exp later.

Cheers,
Julien



How will it drain if it is in AZ taa a no vzz as on soil?
 
Yen Yus
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Septic systems do drain out into the soil but they are full of water so the worms would drown.

Worms have an antibacterial system in their gut. Also the soil below and the gravel have a lot of good bugs since it's an aerobic system. These bugs help eliminate the bad bugs  in the blackwater.

You should check your local freeze depth and make it below there imho.  Mine is not in a container and they are pretty warm in the winter and cool in the summer due to the earth's stable temperature.


Felicia Rain wrote:

Yen Yus wrote:Hi Frank

Since the septic system is full of water the worms would drown. They like a moist medium. I've seen soldier fly larvae swim underwater so that may be an interesting experiment.

Frank Voi wrote:I am interested in how worms interact normally with conventional septic systems? Do they clean out the septic bed?



I thought septic systems also “drain out” into the soil…?

How does one determine if it is safe to drain this black water into the soil beneath the 40cm of gravel?

How deep down does this storage container need to be placed in the soil in a climate that has cold winter?  

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Frank Voi wrote:I am interested in how worms interact normally with conventional septic systems? Do they clean out the septic bed?



Hi Frank, as Yen Yus says, worms would drown in the septic tank itself.

The leach fields, in my experience are designed to be deep enough that surface organisms have little chance to interact or benefit from the moisture.  Roots clog the leaching bed if/when they can access it, and worms live in association with a whole community of soil micro and macro organisms, and they need food not present in the mineral material beneath the living soil.

That’s what makes this so exciting to me.  If I understand this all new (to me) concept the household water, both grey and black becomes usable for gardening so quickly and easily!

Hip hip hooray!
 
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Where are you located abouts?

Yen Yus wrote:Septic systems do drain out into the soil but they are full of water so the worms would drown.

Worms have an antibacterial system in their gut. Also the soil below and the gravel have a lot of good bugs since it's an aerobic system. These bugs help eliminate the bad bugs  in the blackwater.

You should check your local freeze depth and make it below there imho.  Mine is not in a container and they are pretty warm in the winter and cool in the summer due to the earth's stable temperature.


Felicia Rain wrote:

How deep down does this storage container need to be placed in the soil in a climate that has cold winter?  

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Yen Yus wrote:Hey Thekla

İf you see the pictures I posted you can see that the pipe bringing the poop in are also from the top. You would have to get rid of the bottom of your tank and put in gravel etc. İt may not be worth it.

Probably better to just dig a new hole and do it accordingly. You have to make sure the worms won't be drowning so you'd need to test your hole after you dig it.

You are right about septic tanks being a cess pit. The smell when you open one can kill you. With this system it just smells like compost.



Yes, yes!  After the links I followed, I concluded I would do better to get an ?IBS? container - those plastic ~250 gallon containers that have a metal frame around them…  And use that to build a new system.  

Cut out a section at the top for access and feeding the worms, an internal  perforated stand-pipe type drain.

To protect the worms from temperature extremes, my climate is both too hot and too cold for worms in a box that’s only half buried, build an insulated  shelter….  One suggestion was plastered straw bale,  another sneak idea would be cob that might be incorporated into a wall or other decorative  cob garden structure.

I am not sure I can find it again, but I will try to find the site and post it.

It seems like this vermicomposting flush toilet system is as integral to permaculture as rocket stove mass heaters are.

I can’t thank you enough for posting, AND the author of the daily ish who included it!
 
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IBC tank, it's all explained here http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net/

For the insulation, I'm in Ireland it can be cold, I'm considering building a green house/mini polytunnel around it to create a micro climate and why not using a small rocket stove inside when too cold!
 
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Yeah, Julien, that’s it.  Construction details available on the link posted above.

Also more resources on vermicomposting flush toilets.
 
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So this sounds like a one-shot wastewater processing, with processing and infiltration all together, right? (no separate infiltration bed).

This sounds most similar to the tiger toilets https://www.engineeringforchange.org/solutions/product/tiger-toilet/ although they are designed as toilets only, not whole-house processing.

Do you have any way to test the quality of the water infiltrating into your soil? With such a small amount of bedding, I wonder if the pathogens are processed adequately? Most research I've seen has a meter cubed tank 1/2 to 2/3 full of media (like drainage gravel on the bottom and wood chips or other "browns" above). Tests show that most of the processing is done in the top 10" of the bed. So if I were you I would make sure you have at least a foot or two of wood chips / straw etc. This is not just for the worms, it is for the wastewater processing. The bed retains water and the microbes break it down.

There is a ton of research available if you google "peer-reviewed research vermifilter", find those papers, and then also use their bibliographies.

Sewage is noxious stuff. I can't imagine just infiltrating it without having more information about the resulting water quality...?
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Wow, thanks Kimi,  I’m still studying feasibility, now is the time for such input.

Does a person need to periodically remove spent bedding, or does it decompose into CO2 and liquids for the soil?
 
Kimi Iszikala
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Wow, thanks Kimi,  I’m still studying feasibility, now is the time for such input.

Does a person need to periodically remove spent bedding, or does it decompose into CO2 and liquids for the soil?



The resource mentioned above, vermicompostingtoilets.net, covers all of this pretty thoroughly.

The Australian systems I've seen on the web are fully buried and they encourage folks to throw all their kitchen scraps, cardboard, etc. in as well, so they do require compost removal.

The system that Wendy Howard made (vermicompostingtoilets.net) does not require emptying... everything is consumed within the tank. Well not really, but the "sludge" of conventional septic is consumed and broken down by the worms and microbes.

We are currently building our system (with a permit, even!) so I don't have experience running it yet...
 
Burton Sparks
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In her book "Green Light at the End of the Tunnel, Anna Edey successfully used a vermifilter to clean the output of a septic tank.

Thekla, as Kimi mentioned, the vermicompostingtoilets.net design has been used without requiring emptying after years of use, with a caveat that they recommend keeping the users to no more than 4 for an IBC tote.  In other words, with media that breaks down the chances of needing to empty the bin are less assuming you don't have too many users for the size of bin used.  The vermifilter.com site recommends bark or other media that doesn't break down to minimize regular maintenance, but at the tradeoff of requiring it to be emptied when it fills (using a twin bin system to age the compost first).  

Congrats Kimi on finallly getting your permit!  Hopefully I'll be getting mine in the next few months.
 
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